american community survey

by Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Here at the FTC, we always tell people to use caution when someone they don’t know asks them for personal information. So it’s not surprising that people are asking questions about mailings and phone calls they’re getting about the American Community Survey (ACS).

The ACS is a legitimate survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce. Unlike the 10-year Census, this survey runs all year, every year. The survey goes to a random sample of addresses in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many federal, state, tribal, and local leaders use the answers to update their statistics.

If someone contacts you about the American Community Survey and you want to verify that the visit or phone call is legitimate, simply call your Census regional office.

Here’s how the ACS survey process works:

  • Census sends a letter saying that your address was selected for the ACS.
  • Most people then get instructions to complete the ACS online. If you don’t complete the survey, Census will send a paper questionnaire in about two weeks.
  • If you still haven’t submitted the survey, you may get a call. You also may get a call if you completed the survey, but Census needs to clarify information.
  • If Census can’t reach you by phone, they may send someone to your address to complete the process in person. Interviewers may visit or call after normal business hours when it’s more likely you’ll be home. The Census representative must show a photo ID with the U.S. Department of Commerce seal and an expiration date. If you ask, the interviewer will give you a supervisor’s contact information and/or the Census regional office phone number for verification.

For more information, please visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s ACS page.

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